Using Paid Volunteering Time for Employee Engagement


A typical work day may not be so typical for employees of companies who are embracing paid volunteering time. That’s because during their 8-hour day, more people are leaving their desks to serve food to homeless people, read to terminally ill children, or clean up the environment, all without tapping into their vacation time. Paying employees for volunteering is the latest way companies are working to improve employee engagement and retention.

The idea behind this effort is that employees need to engage in meaningful and important work in order to find value in their position. More companies are turning to outside sources to provide volunteer opportunities in hopes of raising morale within their workforce.

In a recent survey of employers by the Society for Human Resource Management, 20 percent said they give their workers a bank of paid time off specifically for volunteering, up from 15 percent in 2009. The figure has been steadily rising since 2007, and analysts say it’s expected to continue to grow. As employees become more selective with whom they want to work for, they are looking for employers who are aligned with their commitment to community. A paid volunteer program is a benefit many employees are seeking out.

It’s a concept that the legal profession has been doing for years in the form of pro bono work. The International Bar Association points out that not only is it important for society that lawyers engage in pro bono work in order to ensure that the under-privileged have access to justice, which is a basic human right, but it is also important for lawyers to improve their training and experience. It appears this tactic is working. Studies show that pro bono work is often what lawyers enjoy most and could be helpful in retaining them at a firm.

Companies in other fields are now banking on paid volunteering outside of the office leading to improved employee performance behind the desk. Considering a recent Gallup report concluded that 70 percent of full-timers in the American workforce feel disengaged, it’s time to make a change to engage your employees. The more engaged they are, the more satisfied they are. Happy employees stay in their positions longer and are more productive.

There’s no question that adding a paid volunteer program will be an added cost. In fact, some larger companies estimate the price tag at as much as $2 million annually. But compared to the cost of hiring and training new employees, many businesses feel it’s a sound investment. It’s also a way to incorporate noncash donations into a giving strategy during a sluggish economy.

Embracing a paid volunteer program could also help your company define its corporate social responsibility strategy. Start by picking a network of organizations that could benefit from one-on-one time with your employees, but which also align with your mission. Set parameters that employees work within this charitable network. For instance, a financial services company could pick a few nonprofits that are working to provide skills or services that will help people become financially independent.

Paid time off programs are gaining traction as a way to increase employee engagement and retention. If your employees could use a boost in their commitment to the company and performance level, the answer could be letting them flourish outside your four walls through volunteer opportunities.

FrontStream Holdings LLC is a registered ISO of Elavon, Inc. Georgia, Chase Paymentech Solutions, LLC, First National Bank of Omaha, Omaha, NE, BMO Harris Bank, N.A., Chicago, IL, Deutsche Bank, USA, New York, NY and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, CA.